Driving in France

From European breakdown cover to electric car charging points and Air Protection Zones, the AA team gets down to brass tacks

Q.Some French cities are now “low-emission zones” and fine older, less fuel-efficient cars for being on the road. Are we better off leaving our car at home and renting one in France? 

A.  Cities across Europe are implementing vehicle access restrictions or charges to help tackle problems with urban air quality. In France, ‘Air Protection Zones’ – either full-time or emergency – have already been introduced in many cities including Paris, Lyon, Lille and Grenoble. This means that vehicles in restricted areas have to display a Crit’Air Air Quality Certificate sticker. If you haven’t purchased and displayed the sticker you could be fined between €68 and €135. There are six different types of sticker depending on the Euro emissions standard that your vehicle meets.

Individual cities decide which stickers are permitted to drive in the zone on certain days or times. For example, from July 2019 all vehicles driving in Greater Paris on weekdays between 8am and 8pm must have at least a Crit’Air 4 sticker. You can purchase the relevant sticker for €4.41 including postage at www.certificat-air.gouv.fr. Emergency low-emission zones operate when monitoring systems show that air pollution is high so could be in effect at any time. If you’re heading to France by car and there’s even a small chance you could be driving in one of these restricted cities, it’s a good idea to order the required sticker well before you travel.

Q.What sort of car insurance do I need to take out before driving in France? 

A.  It is worth checking with your current insurer as you may already be covered for driving in Europe. You should also advise how long you intend to drive on the continent as most insurers cap European cover at 90 days.If you’re staying longer you may need to purchase extra cover.

Car keys on euros

Q. We are planning to rent an electric car while in France. Are charging points easy to find? And are there enough?

According to the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, there are more than 25,000 chargers available for public use in France. And the EV charging network in France is expanding quickly. Principal card or app providers include Izivia (formerly Sodetrel) and KiWhi pass – both of which cover charging networks within and beyond France – as well as Plug Surfing, Chargemap Pass and New Motion.

For non-card holders, Ivizia also provides access to its ‘Corri-Door’ motorway charger network. A code is required at charging points to pay for energy in five minute units. The code can be obtained either through the Sodetrel Mobile App or online. Otherwise, buy a prepaid pass for two 30-minute charges at the motorway service area. However, these are expensive options compared with obtaining a network RFID card linked to a debit or credit card. Over 100 Auchan supermarkets have fast chargers that are either free to use or accept a range of network cards.

Electric car charger

 

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